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Tomorrow it will be three years since our daughters’ deaths at Sandy Hook School. Three years since Emilie, Joey, eighteen of their classmates, and six of their teachers, were killed. Three years since our lives, and countless others, were forever changed.

An intruder shot out a window beside the front door of our school; and stepped through, intent on destroying us all. In many ways, he succeeded.

Yet, here we stand—with so many others beside us. Family, friends, community members, survivors and families who also lost loved ones that day. We have been joined by others—across the country and throughout the world—in support of one another and in search of a better way.

We lost our daughters that day. Yet, somehow, we continue to find them every day—in the memories our families share, in the healing relationships we’ve formed, and in our mission to empower a nation of safer school communities. Our children light the way.

What started as a small group, gathered around the Parker family’s kitchen table, has grown into a national network of stakeholders: school communities and organizations, parents, students, educators, and professionals in the fields of mental health, law enforcement, safety, security, and fire safety—all working together to make schools safer. Our practical tools, resources, and programs are making their way to school communities across the country, guiding administrators, educators and parents as they rethink school safety.

Our children are making a difference.

We look with pride upon the work they have inspired at Safe & Sound Schools. We look forward to sharing much more in the New Year.

We remember our children today, tomorrow, and every day—as we work in their honor for a nation of safer schools. They continue to guide us, teach us, and inspire us. We are grateful that they are loved, honored, and remembered by so many.

Thank you for opening your hearts to our families and our mission—and for your continued thoughts and prayers. Together, we can light the way.

Alissa and Michele

Alissa Parker, Co-Founder & Director, Safe and Sound: A Sandy Hook Initiative
Michele Gay, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Safe and Sound: A Sandy Hook Initiative

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost three years have passed since the Sandy Hook tragedy. Since then, as a country, we’ve witnessed dozens more school shootings and continuing incidences of bullying, violence, and even natural disaster. Although the Sandy Hook Tragedy caused many schools to reassess their safety and preparedness, these continuing incidents remind us that school safety needs to remain at the forefront –for both K-12 and college campuses.

This fall, we gathered local and national school safety stakeholders with the goal of better preparing schools and students for safety and beyond. We held a panel discussion at Boston University –“From Tragedy to a Safer Tomorrow.” Panelists included our Executive Director and Co-founder, Michele Gay, mother of Josephine, Scott Pare of Boston University Police Department, Virginia Tech survivor Kristina Anderson of the Koshka Foundation, Mo Canady of the National Association of School Resource Officers and Andre Ravenelle, Superintendent of Fitchburg Public Schools and President of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.

Click here to view the event video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttk_lNUH2V8&feature=youtu.be

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Thanks to an engaged audience, asking questions at the mic and on Twitter using the hashtag #ASaferTomorrow, the discussion covered a range of topics. One of the topics of interests for many students in attendance was social media. We examined both the dangers and values of social media in in the school community. In times of crisis, social media has the advantage of getting information out instantaneously, but it can also be a cause for concern, as miscommunication and sensationalism can quickly lead to confusion, panic, and inaccurate information.

Scott Pare and his team at Boston University Police Department have had great success using social media to monitor potential violent threats. “We have software [to help us] monitor that information and stay current,” said Scott. While prevention is a huge component of school safety, the panel reminded our audience that having a plan in place to help staff address and respond to potential threats is essential. Likewise, it is critical to ensure that parents and community members receive accurate and timely information when a crisis occurs.

Mo Canady discussed the importance of School Resource Officers (SROs) and how they are becoming more common and valued in K-12 schools, particularly elementary schools. SROs are trained to build relationships with students and are more likely to control and calm a crisis situation. “The issue of deterrence cannot be overlooked,” said Mo. “There have been very, very few school shootings that have happened when an SRO is present.”

The issue of mental health and combating stigma attached with psychological counseling was also brought up during the discussion thanks to a question from an audience member. The panel of experts stressed that the need for mental health professionals at schools is just as important as increasing the presence and participation of SROs and other first responders.

With the evening coming to an end, our panel closed the discussion reminding all that as community members, each of us has a responsibility to ask difficult questions, keep the conversation alive, get involved, and realize that we all play a role toward a safer tomorrow.

Photo from Campus Safety Magazine reporter, Zach Winn 

 

 

New Free “Safety Plan Wizard” Now Available to All Illinois K-12 Schools

Powered by the NaviGate Prepared(R) School Safety System,
Wizard Assists With Safety Plan Development

NEW PHILADELPHIA, OH – Dec. 02, 2015 – In an effort to assist school administrators with the enhancement of current safety plans or the development of new safety plans, the NaviGate Prepared® school safety emergency response system announces the launch of a free ‘Safety Plan Wizard,’ available to any K-12 school in Illinois.

The wizard features the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) recommended school safety plan template and allows for easy customization and implementation of plans to meet individual school needs.

“The Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) has been a sponsor of the NaviGate Prepared school safety system since 2014, helping to introduce the technology to schools throughout Illinois as an aid to improve crisis preparedness and emergency response,” said Roger Eddy, Executive Director, IASB. “Illinois school administrators take the safety of our students very seriously and a free resource designed specifically to help enhance current building safety plans or devise plans if they don’t exist is sure to aid with crisis training and preparation, while helping to standardize school safety plans throughout our state.”

The Safety Plan Wizard features a simple step-by-step questionnaire so administrators can easily create plans, save them as PDFs and download, print and share them with first responders and other key stakeholders. Administrators can also:

  • Start, stop and save information anytime
  • View helpful hints to answer questions
  • Seamlessly copy information from one building safety plan to another
  • Track plan development progress for each building
  • Track district-wide plans year-to-year

“Our organization is committed to school safety and we don’t want to see any school, in any state, lacking in the area of safety plans so we set out to develop a tool that any school could use as a guideline for improving their building safety plans — at absolutely no cost and from a credible and reliable source [FEMA],” said Jim Hummel, President of Lauren Innovations/NaviGate Prepared. “The wizard is designed so that schools can take the information they input and customize it per their specific needs to ensure they have current, up-to-date safety plans that they can actively use.”

Michele Gay, mother of 7-year-old Sandy Hook victim, Josephine, past teacher and co-founder of Safe and Sound: A Sandy Hook Initiative, travels the nation speaking to groups and organizations and offering resources and recommendations on processes, protocols, technologies and more that can make all the difference when faced with a crisis situation.

She says: “Planning and preparing for crisis may be the single most important action schools can take to protect the school community. With emergency plans in place, the school community is better prepared to recognize, prevent, mitigate, and even recover from school-based crisis.”

For schools that currently use the cloud-based NaviGate Prepared system, in addition to comprehensive safety plans, administrators can also securely organize additional imperative school data and information — and allow first responders 24/7 ‘eyes on’ access to it to improve crisis training and aid with emergency response.

The system offers real-time access to emergency call lists, safety plans, virtual binders, building maps and floor plans, 360-degree images, live video feeds, drill logs and more. Staff can also access the award-winning NaviGate Flipcharts mobile app, which allows instant access, with or without Internet connection, to emergency and crisis flipcharts.

NaviGate Prepared is SAFETY Act Designated as an anti-terrorism-level technology by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It has been implemented in hundreds of school districts throughout the nation, including several in Illinois, such as Grayslake Community High School District 127 (Lake County ROE), Fisher Community Unit School District 1 (Champaign-Ford County ROE 9), Cuba Community Unit School District 3 (Fulton County ROE 22), Robinson Community Unit School District 2 (ROE 12), Quincy Public School District 172 (ROE 1) and more.

To obtain the Safety Plan Wizard, administrators can visit: safetyplan.navigateprepared.com. More information on NaviGate Prepared can be found at: www.navigateprepared.com.

About NaviGate Prepared®

NaviGate Prepared® is a proven school safety emergency response system designed to assist and prepare school officials and first responders for crisis situations. The secure, cloud-based platform offers 911 dispatch centers and emergency personnel real-time Internet access of a school’s facility and safety information before, during and after a crisis. Developed by Ohio-based Lauren Innovations, NaviGate Prepared is SAFETY Act Designated as an anti-terrorism-level technology by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For more information, visit www.NaviGatePrepared.com, www.LaurenInnovations.com or call 866-861-7400.

About Safe and Sound Schools

Safe and Sound Schools is a non-profit organization founded by Sandy Hook parents who lost their children during the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. Winner of the 2015 SBANE New England Innovation Award for nonprofits, Safe and Sound Schools is dedicated to empowering communities to improve school safety through discussion, collaboration, planning, and sharing of information, tools, and resources. To get involved, visit www.safeandsoundschools.org.

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Download the .pdf NaviGate Safety Plan Wizard